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The Falaise Gap

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by jagdpanther44, Aug 21, 2014.

  1. jagdpanther44

    jagdpanther44 Battlefield wanderer

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    Seventy years ago this evening the Falaise Gap was finally sealed, trapping 50,000 retreating German soldiers in the process. The fighting was fierce and bloody as the axis forces struggled to get as many men and equipment out of the area before the allies could close the net on them. By the time the pocket was closed some 10,000 Germans lay dead in the surrounding fields and lanes.

    The Germans were now on the run back to Germany...

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    Eisenhower later wrote in his memoirs:
    'Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.'
     
  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The number of Germans in the pocket was closer to 500,000, not 50,000. When the pocket closed there were still 80,000 to 100,000 in the pocket - all killed or captured. The entire affair from about 10 to 24 August cost the Germans about 240,000 casualties, plus the vast majority of artillery, armor, trucks and supplies of every kind they had in France.
     
  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mr. Sanford commented that it was one of the worst scenes he saw in the 11 months he was in Europe.

    He especially disliked seeing the wounded horses. His troop put down a good many of them.

    [SIZE=12pt]Here is what he had to say in the book:[/SIZE]
    © Schweinhund Publishing
     
  4. Richard71

    Richard71 Member

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    Interesting photographs as, despite the fact being well known, it is still a shock to see how reliant the Germans were on horses for mobility.
     
  5. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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    I've read several accounts of this--affair. Never have seen an account of how, and who cleaned it up. Who buried the dead and what happened to all the equipment etc?
     
  6. Pacifist

    Pacifist Active Member

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    Description of the slaughter from 712th tank Battalion at the edge of the gap.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RYXbyra5e8

    Another account mentions the army using bulldozers to bury the thousands of dead horses.
     
  7. Kieran Bridge

    Kieran Bridge Member

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    I've read an account of bulldozers creating a mass grave near St. Lambert in which about 5,000 soldiers were buried in the days following the battle.
     
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Kieran, do you remember if it was US, British or Canadian forces that buried the men?
     
  9. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I guess what I am asking is: is the grave marked and/or have the German soldiers there been moved?
     
  11. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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    That's exactly what I was wondering--if there was any marker or memorial etc. Regardless of who they were or why they died, everyone should have some sort of memorial.
     
  12. Richard71

    Richard71 Member

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  13. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    I have visited the German cemetery at La Cambe years ago, just south of Omaha Beach and west of Bayeux. there are approximately 21,000 Germany soldiers buried there. Interestingly Americans were buried in one field there and Germans in another. After the war American families were ask what they wanted done with the remains, The third that remained in France were moved to the US cemetery at Omaha. Most of the Germans were removed from scattered graves and small mass ones and are buried in 5 or 6 cemeteries around Normandy. La Cambe is easily found and quite moving.

    Google German cemeteries in Normandy, France and you will get lots of links.
     
  14. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I will ask Mr. Sanford if he would like to visit one while we are there. I'll bet he will.
     
  15. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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  16. Kieran Bridge

    Kieran Bridge Member

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    The account was written by a Canadian in a support unit, so they were probably Canadians operating the bulldozers.
     
  17. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Hi KodiakBeer,
    What are the sources for those figures? I have read similar claims before from a recent book I was browsing, but sadly I didn't check its footnotes.
     
  18. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The larger figure of 500,000 is simply the number of German troops in France before the breakout at St. Lo. Many of those would simply be troops left in various "fortress" ports or troops that were withdrawn ahead of the advance - Luftwaffe, Naval, HQ personnel and so on. The 80,000 to 100,000 trapped within the pocket is the general consensus of most historians - look at wiki for a lengthy list of sources. The 240,000 casualties comes from German sources, but is problematic because in the chaos of those weeks it is impossible to say who was killed or captured at the pocket or in various other fighting at Mortain, Brest, Lorient, etc. When it was all said and done, the Germans had lost 240,000 men in those chaotic weeks south of the Seine.
     
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  19. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    So 240,000 was the total for losses incurred between Cobra and the race to the Seine, exclusive of pre-breakout losses such as Epsom, Goodwood, Cobra? By the way, Wiki had a recent edit that deleted Tamelander and Zetterling's estimate of German losses from their page, I'm sad to report.
     
  20. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    As a matter of fact, the gap wasn't sealed. At least not until several ten thousands of Germans had escaped because the Allies were so afraid of losses to friendly fire that they did not put their ground troops in the way of the fleeing Germans. Instead they tried to seal the pocket with artillery and air power, which sufficed to inflict serious losses but didn't 'seal' the pocket as ground troops would have. The price for this act of overaution was paid with heavy interest during Market Garden.

    The two SS divisions at Arnhem were among the troops that managed to make it out of the pocket.
     

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